They weren't my favorite meals at either restaurant. Holy Taco, rather than adding specials for the occasion, actually subtracted all the entrees. It's not that I didn't like my tacos (above). One was made with tongue and the other with fried chicken hearts and kimchi. But I expected to begin the Cinco New Year with my favorite flautas.
The server explained that the menu was abbreviated to accommodate the large crowds. We saw nothing like a crowd. And where was the Mariachi band? Okay, its absence was much appreciated, even if the entrees' absence wasn't.
At Mezcalito's a few days later, I ordered the chilaquiles (right), the kitchen-sink concoction of fried tortilla chips layered with cheese and red and green salsas. Mezcalito's adds sour cream and black beans, plus chicken (or steak) if wanted. I didn't like the stuff during my time in Mexico, but I'd heard some complimentary things about Mezcalito's version. Nope, not for me. Too "gluggy," as my friend Ryan calls food that's relentlessy gooey. I'm sure, though, it would be quite enjoyable after a couple of Margaritas.
Okay, no more Mexican for a few weeks. I promise.
We've done some renovations...We cleaned out the space, painted it and changed the furniture inside and on the patio. I like the contrast of the new furniture (rustic Hacienda style) with the modern china.
The menu is a collaboration of Chef Richard's favorite dishes from a couple of the restaurants he owns - one in Colorado and the other in Washington, DC - and my favorite dishes from Zocalo, like the mole, the pibil, and the chile relleno.
He left me as the executive chef, so I've been traveling back and forth! But we are leaving a kitchen manager/sous chef from one of his restaurants from the west coast.
We will start a "bottomless brunch" on Sundays. We have done that in some of the restaurants here in NY and DC and it has worked amazingly, so hopefully it will work at Zocalo - bottomless brunch and a little extra of bottomless drinks. We will re-start our taco nights: bottomless guacamole and sangria.
It feels like a new beginning, with very good support from Chef Richard and his team.
Lucero was in town last week to celebrate the life of her father who died a few weeks back. I met him soon after Zocalo opened and he radiated pride in his daughter. He backed Lucero and her two brothers in opening the restaurant. She shares a coincidence about him:
The reason he came to the US in the first place (Washington, DC) was to work with NAFTA. He represented the avocado growers in Mexico, and his mission was to bring Mexican avocados to the US. (For many years, Mexican avocados couldn't be transported here.) So he opened the lines for the avocado finally in 1998....To celebrate, there was a dinner with plenty of guacamole and a menu based on avocados. It was at MAYA with Chef Richard Sandoval! Very strange, isn't it? Who would have thought that I would later on work for RS and then have him as a partner in Zocalo!
The report, published this week by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, outlines the culinary facts about insects: they're readily available, they take up a fraction of the space that livestock do when farmed (yes, you can farm bugs), they're a low-carbon protein alternative to meat and poultry, and a nutritious and cheap addition to any diet, especially in countries where malnutrition is rampant. In Uganda and Zambia, the report notes, queen termites are so high in nutrients that they are commonly fed to undernourished children.
Sure, the Kerala fried chicken and waffles gets all the press, but there's another item at Cardamom Hill that fills my dreams. It's a simple cup of chai. A wonderful cup of chai. If there is a better cup of chai anywhere in the world, I just might be willing to hop on a plane to try it.
Part of what makes Cardamom Hill's chai so compelling is how different it is from the typical chai that Americans have come to know through their Starbucks or other chain coffee shop - a few pumps of syrup, or a scoop of instant powder that gets mixed into steamed milk. The difference between that and Cardamom Hill's chai is like the difference between a push-button "cappuccino" from the machine at the local gas station and a carefully constructed beauty of espresso and milk from the likes of Dancing Goats or Octane.
Yesterday, it was a beautiful, David Sweeney-esque bowl of golden quinoa with sharply bitter sautéed arugula and brightly acidic chunks of pickled beets for just $3.50. That plus a nicely nuanced spicy chicken tortilla soup for $4 made for a perfect $8 lunch (OK, a bit under $10 with tip). The creamy texture of the terracotta-red soup enveloped large chunks of pulled chicken and slowly softened the strips of corn tortilla. It wasn't a traditional rendition, but it paired perfectly with that bowl of beets and arugula to make for the kind of lunch that leaves you both sated and happy to have chosen something healthy.
LaSage moved on to open his own place, with the same name, in West Midtown. Meanwhile, P'cheen continued to serve alchemical moonshine cocktails and gastro-pub cuisine, prepared by chef/co-owner Alex Friedman. My favorite was the "just trust us" dishes that Friedman improvised, depending on his mood and available ingredients.
Now, the restaurant has a new menu, entirely of small plates, developed by chef/owner Alex Friedman.
Good evening, I'll be your server tonight.
Does anyone in the party have any food allergies?
And on your paternal grandmother's side?
What about goat, anyone allergic to goat? Because that's our appetizer special tonight, Dutchess County free-ranging baby goat, lovingly dispatched as the New York City Children's Choir sings it a traditional Austrian goat-herd lullaby. You can watch it yourself on our closed-circuit television. In fact, we insist you watch. It will be served vol-au-vent. Can anyone in this party define vol-au-vent? Very good, we'll be allowing you to keep your table until you've almost finished dessert.
Wed., May 15
The Solarium at Historic Scottish Rite Wed., May 15, 6 p.m. Go Eat Give: Destination Kenya Enjoy authentic Kenyan food, music, and culture. Hear from keynote speaker Kelly Campbell, founder of the Village Cooperative. Proceeds benefit nonprofit organization Go Eat Give. Sponsored by Global Atlanta and AKPA. Details
Mac McGee's Irish Pub Wed., May 15, 7:30 p.m. Tullamore Dew Tasting with Ambassador Tim Herlihy Enjoy three delicious expressions from Tullamore Dew with Ambassador Tim Herlihy. Tim will talk about the history of Irish distilling and guests will taste three Tullamore Dews all for $15. RSVP required. Details
Thurs., May 16
Park Tavern Thurs., May 16, 7-11 p.m. On Thursday, May 16, join Creative Loafing and 11 of Atlanta's finest bartenders as they converge upon Park Tavern in a battle to concoct the best margarita in town. Only you can pick the winner. Details
Woodfire Grill Thurs., May 16, 6 p.m. Wine Tasting Series Join Woodfire Grill co-owner and wine director Nicolas Quinones and sommelier Patrick Guilfoil for a new monthly wine-tasting series. For each tasting, the restaurant pours eight wines focused on a specific theme or region with either Quinones or Guilfoil present to answer any questions. Details
It was after midnight, and our plane was having trouble negotiating the dense clouds sitting in the high mountain valley of Quito, Ecuador. One pass, then another, then one more, all proved too risky to attempt landing. The pilot's voice carried through the cabin, a reluctant recognition of defeat - we were being diverted. To Cali, Colombia.
Cali, Colombia? At the time, all I knew of it was a vague association with drugs - the Cali Cartel, cocaine, violence. We arrived to a nearly deserted airport in the dark of night, and the thought of actually experiencing this city didn't even cross my mind. I was concerned about the safety of my family, my young kids, my wife. I didn't view our pit stop as an opportunity, but rather a potentially dangerous distraction away from our desired destination.
WTF? Jennifer Brett, the AJC's "Peach Buzz" columnist, is ashamed. Her Thursday, Apr. 25, column is headlined, "An apology to Paula Deen's son, Jamie Deen, for my rudeness."
Jennifer phone-interviewed Jamie about his appearance at this weekend's American Diabetes Association Expo at Cobb Galleria. Jamie said that it was always good to be near his mama and brother.
Then, Brett writes, explaining her seismic faux pas in language that Paula would envy:
Oh, how is your Mama...? See? I didn't even ask. Lawd where is my funeral home fan; I am giving myself the vapors acting such the fool...Since I was raised in the church, I do not bear false witness even when committing the unpardonable sin of rudeness...
As yet there is no word whether Jamie, whose mother's food totally sucks, has accepted her apology.
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